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Roadrunners coach Jay Varady promoted to NHL’s Coyotes
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Roadrunners coach Jay Varady promoted to NHL’s Coyotes

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Roadrunners coach Jay Varady draws up a scheme for facing Ontario in the second period of their December game at Tucson Arena.

Jay Varady, who led the Tucson Roadrunners to the top spot in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division before the coronavirus pandemic halted the 2019-20 season, won’t be behind the Tucson Arena bench this season.

Varady is joining Rick Tocchet’s coaching staff with the Arizona Coyotes, the Roadrunners’ parent club. A Roadrunners spokesperson confirmed Varady’s promotion to the Star on Friday after the news was reported by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet Canada.

Details on both Varady’s role and title with the Coyotes were not immediately available. Neither was word on who will replace him as the Roadrunners’ head coach.

With the Coyotes’ season opener just days away, and the Roadrunners slated to open in less than four weeks, two obvious possibilities are Tucson assistant coaches John Slaney and Steve Potvin.

Slaney, a veteran of 268 NHL games during his playing career, has been an assistant coach at the AHL or NHL level for the past nine years, including the last two in Tucson under Varady’s leadership. Potvin has been with the Roadrunners for the last three seasons, serving under both Varady and previous Tucson head coach Mike Van Ryn.

During his two years in Tucson, the 43-year-old Varady was well-liked by his players. The coach was clear that the goal of an AHL affiliate was two-fold. He said his job was to win games and to help those on his roster grow into NHL-ready players — not necessarily in that order.

With Varady at the helm, Tucson finished 2019-20 with the AHL’s fifth-best overall record (out of 31 teams). His teams compiled a two-year mark of 70-45-6-5, good for a .599 win percentage.

In May, Varady said was proud of what the Roadrunners were able to accomplish in 2019-20 despite the way the season ended.

“(If you) come back five or 10, even 20 years from now, and the team’s playing still, you’ve got your kid with you, and you can say, ‘Hey, see that second banner over there? We were part of that team,” he said.

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